The Three Lions legend watched on from the stands as the players who idolise him put in their best performance yet in France to beat Norway 3-0
If Jill Scott wanted to play things cool with David Beckham in the stands at Le Havre’s Stade Oceane, Karen Carney had already blown her cover.
“I ask Phil [Neville] every day, ‘Is he coming? Is he coming?’ He keeps telling me I need to calm down,” she said last week about the possibility of Neville’s former Manchester United team-mate coming over to France to watch England at the Women’s World Cup.
“I think Jill Scott is even more of a fan. She is obsessed with him. She’s said to Phil that if he does come out, don’t bring him in before a game as it would unnerve us.”
Clearly, Neville didn’t listen. Two hours before kick-off in the Lionesses’ quarter-final clash with Norway, Beckham uploaded a picture of him and his daughter Harper with the team.
But clearly, Scott underestimated her and her side’s mental strength.
With just two minutes on the clock, it was the midfielder herself, under the watchful eyes of Becks and Harper, who slotted home as England made the perfect start to a game which they would win 3-0 to seal a place in the semi-finals.
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The 32-year-old would also join Fara Williams in becoming just the second Lioness to score at three World Cups – the same number Beckham scored for the Three Lions.
And after Scott spent her younger years looking up to the former Manchester United captain, after her performance tonight, it’s likely Harper will cause a bit of controversy in the Beckham household by wanting the Manchester City star on the back of her next England shirt.
Neville himself never had any qualms about nerves and pressure – perhaps the reason he ignored Scott and allowed Beckham to pay a quick pre-match visit.
“I think in the past you’d have tried to shield them from it, for fear of failure. But my girls don’t have any fear of failure,” he said in his pre-match press conference.
“The occasion, the attention, it’s what they’ve grown up wanting. As I say all the time, three or four years ago we were crying out for this, so when we get here we’re not going to back off, not going to say it’s nerve-wracking or our bellies are twitching a little here.
“We will embrace it. The bigger the occasion the more pressure on them, the more they relax, play and embrace it. The bigger games are the ones they like.”
Those words certainly rang true – particularly when looking at the performances Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton and Scott.
It wasn’t just the goal that made the latter stand out. It was the constant pressing and tireless running.
It was the ability to do the ugly side of things that comes with being a midfielder, while also proving to be the creative spark that many would expect to be the player next to her, Fran Kirby.
It was that which got the England – not just the Beckhams – on their feet, cheering, clapping and, most of all, believing.
Pessimism is a very English trait to hold, particularly as a football fan. So many times the country has produced high quality teams that have come so close, but not close enough.
But, in what is now the 53rd year of hurt – not the 30 that the lyric originally said – the renditions of ‘It’s Coming Home’ could not have been more justified.
This wasn’t England at their very best, but it was a clear improvement from the four games before Norway.
The early goal certainly helped, with Bronze in scintillating form on the night as she stormed down the right to set up Scott’s opener with a pinpoint cutback.
But that was far from her highlight. After Ellen White wrote her name into history as England’s all-time top-scorer at the Women’s World Cup, Bronze popped up with a stunning right-footed strike that Beckham certainly approved of.
Even a Nikita Parris’s penalty miss, saved by Norway goalkeeper Ingrid Hjelmseth in the 83rd minute, couldn’t dampen a brilliant show from the Lionesses.
Next up is either France or the U.S., and neither have looked convincing against top opposition yet. France held off Norway 2-1 in the groups and were taken to extra-time by Brazil in the last 16, while the USWNT needed two penalties – one very contentious – to beat Spain in the previous round.
After a string of fairly ordinary or up and down performances, things clicked for England in Le Havre.
But what the Lionesses will be happiest about is that this was them at perhaps only 70 per cent of their potential, especially in their defending.
Scott, Bronze and co. may never be the global superstar that Beckham is, but they have an incredible chance of doing the one thing he never could. They could bring football home.